In Defense of Mom Drivers: Seven Ways We Keep Baby Snoozing

Mom in car driving

When you become a mom, there’s a HUGE learning curve. You learn the perfect football hold without ever playing a day in your life. You learn how to imitate four hands during diaper changes while navigating the wipes that won’t come out one by one, holding the baby’s legs up, keeping flailing arms from touching their potty, and getting the new diaper on quickly before baby realizes it’s a free for all. You also begin to feel just a bit eccentric in your tricks and just a little bit crazy. At first you look around and wonder who notices your new eccentricities, but eventually you just accept that this is just mom survival mode. Then, it becomes bragging rights. 

One unexpected thing that changed in my new mom life was my driving: it became something I can ONLY imagine the looks on the faces of those around me that have forgotten the ways of a newborn. Let’s go over seven of these absurd, but oddly practical, new behaviors:

  1. Pumping your breaks when at a stop.

    It didn’t take me long to realize that babies cry when the car stops moving. Due to this fact, I DREADED stop lights and tried my very best to time my speed just right to avoid them. Sometimes I’d slowly creep up to the light and a sigh of relief would escape as the light turned green right before I hit my breaks. Other times I wasn’t so lucky. I’d have to stop 10 feet away from the car in front of me and pump my breaks to rock the car back and forth while inching toward them. The person behind me probably thought I was insane. Little did they know doing this KEPT me sane and kept baby sleeping.

  2. Driving circles in parking lots, or simply rocking back and forth as forceful as possible while parked.

    Sometimes it’s just not worth it to get the baby out of the car to go into the store for one item. When both you and your spouse are in the car, and baby JUST fell asleep, you decide instead to initiate grocery relay. You quickly drop the spouse off at the door almost with a roll stop, and then look for the safest way to drive circles around the lot to keep baby asleep. Sometimes, when that’s not an option, you have to sit in a parking space and rock forcefully in the driver’s seat back and forth to rock the car side-to-side. (No, onlooker, there are not ten unruly seven-year-olds in my car; it’s just me and a baby.)

  3. Take the backroads and purposely drive the rough patch of road.

    This was a trick I learned on the long commute to drop my baby off for childcare. I realized the humming and rattling of a rough road soothed baby back to sleep. On the two lane backroad I took, there was about a ten minute rough patch of road that was the perfect stretch to put baby to sleep for the 30 minute ride. Of course though, it was slightly to the shoulder of the otherwise smooth concrete. No, officer, I’m not overly tired or drunk. Driving to the shoulder was a conscious, sober decision.

  4. Suddenly pulling over into the grass for an emergency paci rescue.

    Mom giving baby a paci in the carWhen baby’s paci falls out, you have a very thin window of time to get that paci back in their mouth without them putting up much of a fuss. Miss that window of time, and good luck soothing them in under a few minutes. When paci falls out, us moms aren’t above driving into the grass and doing a Chinese firedrill-like maneuver to get that paci back in baby’s mouth as soon as possible. And, we’re darn good at it too.

  5. Driving aimlessly simply to get to eat or get some peace.

    Oftentimes driving in the car was the only way I could eat or get some peace. The baby was contained, often asleep, and I’d get a pleasant drive with my favorite music. The drive through was my friend in these moments. Grab a shake or a portable bite to eat and hit the road so I could finally get some food in me.

  6. Having the “Shhhhh” face.

    If you have ever heard of the “5 S‘s” to soothe a baby, you know it works miracles. Shushing is one of my favorite ways to soothe baby quickly. In the car though, I probably look ridiculous with my loud, exaggerated “shushing” face. There I am, my eyebrows pleading, raised and alert, my lips pooched together making a sound that’s silent to the drivers around me. So of course, while I’m pumping my breaks inching up on the person in front of me, and they look in their rearview mirror to see what lunatic is about to hit their car, this is the face they get.

  7. Planning trips around nursing and diapers.

    Going anywhere takes a travel agent’s detail. We must time the drive just right around nursing trips, diapers, and baby’s nap. If we get it JUST right, we’ve changed baby, nursed them into a milk coma, and stuck them in the carseat right as they are falling asleep. Of course then, there’s the dreaded sound accompanied by a sleep smirk that comes right as we walk out the door. Might as well turn right back around.

So here’s to you, mama! The master of the wheel and road. You do what you gotta do to keep the peace, and we’ve all been in your shoes. Just remember next time, before you pull out the one finger wave at the car in front of you or behind you, there might just be a very sane, mature adult mama driving in the car with a very irrational, loud mini-human.

What are your tricks to keep baby snoozing?


Photography by Jess Graefe

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